Stay tuned! I know Day 2 of the Draft isn't normally very interesting, but there are plenty of potential first rounders still on the board. Using Bob McKenzie's Top 30 ranking, Justin Faulk, Tyler Pitlick, Tyler Toffoli, Jonathan Merrill and John McFarland still remain. And that's before you get to players like goalie Calvin Pickard, the toxic but talented Kirill Kabanov and a pair of great 5'10" forwards in Ryan Spooner and Jason Zucker. The chances of the Ducks getting a better player than they otherwise would have, perhaps a significantly better player than they would have (as they did yesterday), is very high.
After the jump, a quote I collected at last week's Ducks West Coast Prospects Camp from Anaheim Senior VP of Hockey Operations David McNab regarding the Ducks drafting California players. It seems extremely relevant now.
When I interviewed David McNab last week, the topic was California youth hockey and the ever increasing skill of the players. Naturally, I had to ask, with Golden State prospects like Mitch Wahl and Rhett Rakshani breaking into the pros with the Flames and Islanders respectively and the Ducks still unable to draft that blue chip prospect, was it a concern for the Ducks? Is drafting a California player something they think about? This was McNab's response:
We follow the California players. I think that when it comes to the Draft, that's a different situation, where it's hard to necessarily switch what you're doing in the Draft, because at the end of the day, we would love to have a lineup where we had several California players-- that would be ideal. Flipside is, you have to win. So when you're picking, it's hard when you're talking about a guy who might go in the first round. It's hard to alter what you're doing, because you just have to take the best players. You know what the fans want and what it takes to be successful. We're obviously very aware of all the California players in the country. If you go to a game, and there's someone who's from California, you're watching. We know all the players that are playing in Juniors who are from California. We know all the players who are playing in College who are from California. And you're always gonna watch supportingly. And hopefully, something happens when you get a player that makes it from this area. That would be great.
I also talked to plenty of the youth hockey players at the Ducks West Coast Prospects Camp about the dichotomy between Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem, with the former having stayed around California for AAA and the latter leaving for Minnesota at a very young age but both becoming eventual first rounders (Bennett at 20th and Etem at 29th). What did the young players think of the pressure on California kids to travel in order to get drafted? The general consensus was that the path for every kid is different. Frasier Haber pointed out that Emerson tried the NTDP, and it wasn't for him. Then, in the WHL, he was able to get on track to the 1st Round.
There are plenty of opportunities in California, and a story like Jake Newton's, where a player stays local until the end of high school is great. David McNab even told us in his interview that he would like to see California hockey closer to what it was when he played, where kids can play to the end of high school and don't have to worry about leaving home. But realistically, NO path to the NHL is the same, whether you're from California or Powell River, British Columbia. It's important that we ingrain it in young players minds that they won't be punished for staying local (and Bennett being the highest drafted Californian ever certainly helps that), but we can't expect them all to stay local.